February 2011: Prevention is better than cure

A word from Ross Mountain

We all know the advantages of being prepared. The differences in casualties and damage caused by the Haiti and Chile earthquakes last year spoke volumes. That prevention is better than cure was one of the central findings of the The Humanitarian Response Index (HRI) field missions last year. This is not a new idea!

Ross Mountain, DARA's Director General

Over the years HRI reports have repeatedly recommended increased investment in preparedness and prevention. Yet little attention has been paid to this dimension. Perhaps now in the wake of the Haiti earthquake and Pakistan floods, which proved to be beyond the scope of the international community to respond, serious interest will be paid to the importance of building local capacity to manage such events.

In the context of the Hyogo Framework and in collaboration with the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), DARA launched the Risk Reduction Index on January 26th in Madrid. The report Analysis of the Capacities and Conditions for Disaster Risk Reduction- a study of seven Central American and Caribbean Countries has been produced with the support AECID and UNDP, and looks at four drivers that contribute to the generation of risk. These are: environmental degradation and loss of environmental services; negative socioeconomic conditions and lack of resilience; inadequate territorial planning and land misuse; and lack of governance.

Based on local consultations, the Risk Reduction Index provides guidance for effective risk reduction in vulnerable and hazard-prone areas across the world. The innovative approach of this report has been welcomed by ISDR as an input for its Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction that will be produced later this year.

Climate change is adding intensity to weather related disasters. Already this year Sri Lanka and Australia have experienced extraordinary floods. Such disasters are expected to worsen and their costs increase. A recent report by the UN and the World Bank, Natural Hazards, UnNatural Disasters, indicates that the cost of disasters is expected to triple to $185bn per year by the end of the century. Governments can reduce these costs by putting in place essential measures for predicting and managing risks, including in developing countries. Such measures save lives and are cost-effective.

Many disasters are the result of human activity. We should not regard damage done by disasters as immutable acts of God. We now have superior capacities to map where these are likely to occur and thus to seek to manage the consequences on populations. While in most cases we can’t stop such disasters, we can certainly limit their damage!